Russian oligarchs, businessmen and alleged mobsters who have poured their money into Cyprus over the last couple of decades, and now could stand to lose millions if the government confiscates up to 20 percent of their bank accounts as demanded by international lenders to trigger a bailout, have turned parts of Cyprus into a small Moscow.
Many Russians, who live in the island, have already started packing up their belongings and investing their money in gold, media reports said, although the banks have been closed since March 15 and the government plans on putting a limit on withdrawals to prevent a run on the banks.
It hasn’t stopped wealthy Russians from partying hard at their favorite clubs. A rendezvous was held at 7 Seas, and it would be a ladies night with nearly 100 Russian women showing up, some in Louboutin high-heels swaying to the rhythm of music, drinking vodka cocktails, Cristal champagne, or a bit of both, according to an article published by the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail.
Without any concern about the economic crisis in Cyprus and having daddy’s credits cards in their wallets, the newspaper said they partied away while young Russian and Cypriot men, wearing their leather jackets and their branded clothes, were flirting and talking to them.
And when the music stopped, around 3 a.m., the rich kids left the beach club of Lemessos, got into their luxury cars to continue their party in newly-built luxury sea view villas.
Katy Mass, a 29-year-old divorced businesswoman, who was born in Moscow, was among the girls who spent their night at the glamorous club. “Cyprus is a paradise and we, the Russians, love the sun. None of us knows everything that takes place in our paradise island. But we are all having fun, no matter how much this is going to last.”
One of the most successful jewelers of Lemessos, the Armenian origin Raffi der-Garabedian, said about the crisis that hits Cyprus these days: “Tuesday was one of the best days in my store. Most of my clients are Russian women. They love jewelries and they spend up to 4,000 pounds ($6,000) each time. But this week, they came to buy gold. Because they know that if they “convert” their money into gold, instead of deposing it into a bank, no one- neither Angela Merkel, neither E.U. – can take it from them.”
Almost 19,000 Russians have built home in Cyprus and some have opened stores selling furs for 35,000 British Pounds ($53,000), even in the middle of the summer season.
Changes occurred even on the menu of the restaurants, where Black Sea caviar was added. The Russian residents could still find their kefir, a Russian yogurt drink, as well as their favorite beer, Baltika.
Two-thirds of the children who attend private schools, are also Russians and there are a number of stores that cater to the clientele from their homeland, while there are two Russian radio stations and many Russian magazines and newspapers.
One of the most advertised buildings of Lemessos, the white building with the two towers on the seafront, with apartments and villas that cost up to $2.35 billion is mostly inhabited by oligarchs. A few meters away, there are streets full of orange-trees behind of which are the villas of the Russians. This neighborhood is named as the “District of Moscow”.
Natalia Kardash, publisher of the Russian weekly newspaper Vestnik Kipra, said that “Cyprus is a very comfortable place. Put yourselves in the shoes of a Russian businessman who wants to work here. He brings his family with him, his wife may be shopping all day, everybody speaks Russian. There are many Russian hair and beauty salons, so it’s very easy to feel like home.”